As it has been Valentine’s Day, many couples will have gotten together to celebrate this and not just face to face – according to Infogram, 1 in 5 relationships now start online, with a total of 9.1 million people in the UK using online dating sites. With many people now spending so much time communicating on devices, and with the huge variety of different social media apps and dating sites, it’s no wonder that many couples now meet online – but how risky can this be and what are the red flags to look out for with a dating scammer? Here, we have created a list of the most common scamming tactics and what you can do to prevent being scammed.
When it comes to dating sites, the methods used to try and deceive you into providing sensitive information or finances are not so different to phishing scams or social engineering. However, specifically with dating sites, the scammers will use your emotions against you and try to manipulate you through false love.
Red Flags & Prevention
On dating sites, you would hope that the person you are talking to is legitimate and trustworthy. However, being scammed or ‘catfished’ isn’t as uncommon as you might think, with at least 10% of all dating profiles being scammers (DateAha!, 2019). Some of the red flags to look out for when talking to someone online include:
Red Flag #1:
Someone you are talking to asks you to move from the dating site’s messaging service to a private chat room or email.
Many legitimate dating sites are registered with the ODA (Online Dating Association), this is a British trade body that enforces safety standards within the industry. This means dating sites must protect their users, their data and privacy. By agreeing to step away from the dating site to talk to someone elsewhere means you are no longer protected, and scammers know this. If someone asks you to do this, this is an immediate red flag and you should refuse.
Red Flag #2:
Asking or hinting for money and/or gifts.
A lot of scammers will wait until your guard is down before asking you to send them money and/or gifts – this is usually backed up with a dramatic story such as a medical emergency or losing their job. Unless you know for 100% certain that their claims are genuine, then this is most likely a scam and one of the most common ways people are deceived on dating sites. FACT: According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, victims were conned approximately $230 million in 2016.
Red Flag #3:
Continuously making excuses for not being able to meet up or talk over the phone/video call.
Scammers will always create excuses for not being able to talk to you other than through private message or email. This is because (and you guessed it) they aren’t who they claim to be! It is also worth looking out for any profile pictures that appear to be too high quality and stock-image like. This is known as ‘catfishing’ and is also extremely common amongst online scammers.
Red Flag #4:
A quick escalation from introduction to “love”.
Scammers will use your emotions to try and deceive you into providing sensitive information or sending finances. Trust your instincts, if something appears to be moving too fast, or if messages become too intense and/or persistent, then this could be an attempt to emotionally manipulate you.
Red Flag #5:
Asking for intermate pictures or videos.
Also known as ‘sextortion’, scammers will use these as blackmail against you by threatening to send these to your family members, friends or co-workers if you don’t follow a request – e.g. sending money. According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), 1,304 cases of sextortion was reported in 2017, however, due to the nature of this scam, the number of cases is expected to be much higher as people don’t tend to report it. The NCA believes millions of pounds is blackmailed from victims each year in the UK.
Red Flag #6:
Asking you to perform criminal activity without you knowing it – e.g. transferring money into your bank account for you to send it to another.
Also known as ‘money laundering’, scammers on dating sites will take advantage of your trust by asking you to participate in criminal activities without you knowing it. An example includes asking to transfer money into your account just for you to send it to another unknown bank account. If anyone asks you to do this – regardless of the reasons – then this is huge red flag, and you should cut contact immediately.
Red Flag #7:
Asking too many questions about yourself and asking for personal information.
When it comes to online dating scams, it isn’t all about trying to deceive you into providing financial information – scammers will also try to gather as much personal data as possible to commit identity theft. Never share information such as your birth date/place, place of work, surname, typical security-question answers (i.e. mother’s maiden name, pet’s name etc.) bank details or email addresses with anyone online.
Online dating seems to be the new norm for couples to meet, and by 2031, it is estimated that 50% of relationships will have begun online (eHarmony). However, there are risks when using such sites and it is also important to trust your gut – if something doesn’t feel right or things don’t seem to be adding up, then this could be someone trying to take advantage.
If you find yourself being victim to any of the above, stop all communications and report the user to the dating website and contact the police.